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By Troy A. Waugh, CPA, Waugh & Co.

The most important link in your marketing program is your receptionist. It's true. Did you know that callers talk with your receptionist two to three times more frequently than they talk with you? The businesslike CPA mind often concludes that the receptionist has spare time when not answering the phone. Or we decide that the newest member of our administrative staff should handle the phone.

Seems logical, doesn't it? Assign the person with the least knowledge of the firm, the job with the most contact with clients and prospects.

Here are some quotes from receptionists I've heard in the past month from CPAs' offices:

"He's not come in yet, I'll put you to his voice mail." CLICK... "He's not here yet this morning."... At 2:30 p.m.: "He's gone for the day, please call back tomorrow." ... "Are you with a company?" "...Accounting offices!" ... "Does he know you?" ... "Does he know what you're calling about?"

Many firms have trained their #1 marketing agent using the "mushroom" technique. But while many of them are in the dark, you have been stingy with the manure.

The frightening aspect is that many firms are spending tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours on marketing programs to attract clients and prospects.

Here is a 30-day training program for all the people that answer your phone:

1. Ask your telephone company for a free seminar on telephone skills.

2. Afterwards, help your receptionist script a response to all possible calls received by your office. Make these responses a marketing opportunity every time.

3. Provide your receptionist with all of the firm's marketing brochures and discuss them with him or her. Regularly, review the services of the firm with your receptionist, and be sure that he or she knows the biographical information on each person in your firm.

4. Ensure discretion with all callers on your whereabouts.

5. Make every caller feel like your most important client. Insist on a warm, friendly voice from every person who answers your phone.

6. Limit extra work and distractions. Read marketing materials, not novels.

7. Assign your receptionist a prominent role on the mar-
keting committee. Find proactive marketing assignments, such as updating your newsletter mailing list.

8. Most of all, make sure your receptionist knows that the job is critical to the success of your marketing efforts. Just one turned off prospect can cost a full year's marketing budget in lost revenue.

With a little creative thought, and at no expense, you can make your receptionist a marketing asset rather than a liability. *

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